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Your Life

Seniors! Watch out for these holiday scams

As the end of the year and the holiday season approaches, it can be tempting to relax and focus on your fun. Unfortunately, this time of year is one where scammers amp up their operations, especially those that target seniors. We’ve compiled a list of the most common scams to watch out for this year and how to avoid them:

  1. Fake charity requests – The holiday season is a time when many people donate to charities. And, with many nonprofits trying to encourage end-of-year giving, there can be many requests for assistance coming in as well. Unfortunately, some people take the opportunity to create a fake donation request to try to divert some of the well-intentioned money. When planning your charitable giving, make sure that your money is going where you want it to, and where it can do the most good. Double-check any links and emails you are sent, and be especially careful if someone calls you out of the blue with a donation request. If it’s a legitimate request, there will be multiple ways to donate, and they won’t pressure you to make a donation in a way you are uncomfortable with. Be especially wary of a nonprofit asking you to donate gift cards – a reputable charity will almost never ask for gift cards.

  2. Phishing scams – You might be wondering what a phishing scam is. Basically, it’s when a ne’er-do-well goes ‘fishing’ for data that they shouldn’t have access to. They will often impersonate a government agency like the IRS or the Social Security Administration to ask for personal information over the phone. For that reason, it’s important to remember that these agencies will not call about any issues with unpaid taxes, or to ask for your social security number without first reaching out by mail. Additionally, they will not ask for a bank account number. Any time you deal with the federal or state government, there will be a lot of paperwork documenting what is happening. If someone is claiming to be from the government and wants you to provide information, but does not have any paperwork, and does not offer to walk you through any questions, that person is likely being deceitful about who they are. Any time you are concerned, you can always hang up and then call a number that you know is legitimate (you can find legitimate phone numbers on websites that end in .gov, or you can go to your local library or post office for assistance).

  3. The ‘Grandparent Scam’ – This scam is one that has been happening for years, but recently got a boost from new technologies. In this scam, someone calls the potential victim and claims to be their grandchild or other loved one, who is in dire need of money immediately. They might pretend to have been arrested and need bail money, have run out of tuition money and are at risk of getting kicked out of school, or anything else the scammer can think of that is time-sensitive. While in previous years, they would count on bad connections to hide their voice from a loved one, scammers now have access to artificial intelligence technology that can mimic a voice very precisely. If a loved one calls and needs help, the instinct is always to help them. However, if you get a call that you’re not expecting from a loved one claiming to need money, make sure you verify that the request is coming from them. Especially if they are acting oddly or are very focused on the money and not on what has led them to make the request for help, really think about if your loved one would act this way. Think about if there is anyone else (a sibling, a parent, a close friend) you could contact to make sure that any money you send will actually go to helping out the person you are trying to assist.

While it’s important to be vigilant for all types of scams this time of year, these are the three most common that we at Atlantic Union Bank see targeting seniors at the end of the year. Protect your money and your peace of mind by staying up-to-date on scammers latest methods. And, remember, a scammer will almost always try to impose a sense of urgency on the situation when they contact you. One of the ways you can keep yourself and your family safe is by acting calmly and not allowing yourself to be pressured to do things too quickly. For more resources, visit our security and fraud center.

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